LA JOLLA, Calif. -- Bret Bonanni’s eight-goal outburst spearheaded a dominant performance for Stanford as the second-seeded Cardinal wrapped up its second consecutive third-place finish at the NCAA Men’s Water Polo Championship with a 20-11 victory against tournament hosts and No. 4 seed UC San Diego on Sunday afternoon.
Bonnani, along with fellow All-Americans Alex Bowen (4) and BJ Churnside (3), combined to score 15 times in the rout. The effort, Stanford’s 11th 20-goal performance of the season, allowed the Cardinal to finish its 2014 campaign 26-4 overall and post the program’s highest win total since 1994 (27).
Bonanni led off the spurt with his first off an assist from Cody Smith at 5:32 in the second. He assisted a Churnside score moments later (4:57) before Smith got on the board at 4:34. Bonanni put home two more in the period, an even-strength score at 3:40 and a power-play goal at 2:29, and the Cardinal led 10-5 at the break.
Nick Hoversten (5:59) and Bowen (4:24) kept things rolling early in the third quarter. Bonanni was assisted for a 6-on-5 goal by Churnside (3:34), Churnside scored on his own at 2:20 and then Bonanni did the same with 40 seconds left on the clock in the period. When the waves had settled, Stanford had a nine-goal advantage and led 15-6 heading into the fourth quarter.
Each team scored five times in the final period. Adam Warmoth (6:07) and Bowen (1:55) contributed one apiece for Stanford and Bonanni continued his historic afternoon with three goals in the game’s final three minutes, at 3:10, 1:27 and 0:47.
Bonnani's eight scores were just one shy of the single-game record in the history of the NCAA Men’s Water Polo Championship. Greg Carey of UC Santa Barbara scored nine against Yale in 1972 and Blake Hinman of Texas A&M did the same against Pittsburgh in 1976.
Combined with his three yesterday against USC, Bonanni’s 11 total goals this year in La Jolla are the most in NCAA Championship history since Doug Munz scored 11 for Navy in 1994. It’s also the second-highest total in Stanford history behind James Bergeson’s 12 in 1981, however both of those marks came in three games. From 1969 through 1994 the championship was composed of eight teams. Since 1995 it has been composed of four teams. Ivan Babic (USC, 2000) and Balazs Erdelyi (Pacific, 2013) held the previous two-game record of nine.
Twenty of Stanford’s 34 shots found the back of the cage and the Cardinal was extremely successful in man-up situations, converting 5 of 6. UC San Diego drew 10 exclusions and converted six times.
Drew Holland played three quarters in the cage before giving way to Oliver Lewis in the fourth and made 12 saves. He finished his sophomore season with 269 stops and will continue his assault on the Stanford record books next season along with Bonanni. Holland’s 480 career saves place him within striking distance of the Cardinal’s top three of Chris Aguilera (744), Larry Bercutt (727) and Nick Ellis (714).
Bonanni finished his junior campaign with 96 goals, just one shy of the single-season school-record 97 he tallied a year ago. He will enter his senior season on with 266 career scores, just 66 shy of Tony Azevedo’s Stanford record (332). Bonanni is the only Cardinal in history to post multiple 90-goal seasons.